The original proposal to close the airport as a public-use facility at the end of February was quickly abandoned following a media frenzy, three lawsuits, and pressure from the FAA. The town then voted to postpone the closure to May 17 and reopen the airport 33 hours later as a private airport with a PPR framework.
Though nothing specific has yet been enacted, proposals include setting mandatory curfews, limiting commercial operations to one daily round trip per aircraft, prohibiting touch and goes, and phasing out allowing aircraft that use lead-based fuel.
Additionally, an outside consultant advised the town to separate the airport’s rules and regulations from the PPR framework, which would allow the board to update fees and policies by resolution instead of having to hold a public hearing every time it wanted to make changes. However, the FAA has not commented publicly on whether the conversion from public-use to PPR would allow local control over fees or airport policies, so it remains unclear if the town’s approach would give local officials the authority they seek to assert. The FAA is also reviewing proposed instrument approaches.
During the latest board meeting, town officials asked pilots, residents, and stakeholders to submit comments on the proposed restrictions and suggestions related to airport operations by March 25.
AOPA and industry groups responded in a March 18 letter, writing, “We advise caution by the Town in its … consideration of the various PPR proposals that have been put forward. For all of them, virtually no detail has been provided, and thus significant questions remain about exactly how they would be put into effect and whether they would be effective in addressing the Town’s concerns—including, but not limited to whether they would have ‘spillover‘ effects due to diversions to other airports, thus significantly impacting other communities on eastern Long Island. Generally, we strongly recommend that the Town carefully consider the feedback that is expected to be provided in this proceeding, and further engage with HTO tenants and aviation users.”
The groups also pointed out that closing the airport and reopening it as a “new” airport may not exempt it from all federal requirements. The airport may still be subject to the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990, which would limit what restrictions the town could implement.
The groups invited the town to work together with the aviation industry, the FAA, and neighboring communities to find a path forward for the East Hampton Airport and address concerns that can actually be implemented.